Markarian Pledges ‘Resolute Steps’ in Anti Corruption Drive

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–Prime Minister Andranik Markarian on Tuesday reaffirmed his intention to draw up a comprehensive plan for combating the rampant corruption in Armenia as he formally accepted a $300,000 grant from the World Bank–meant to support the initiative. An agreement on the release of the funds was signed by officials from the Armenian government and the bank.

"I must emphasize that the government of the Republic of Armenia regarded and regards the fight against corruption as one of the key challenges facing the state," Markarian declared in a speech at the signing ceremony. The authorities are "conscious of the urgent need to take resolute steps aimed at a solution to problems related to corruption," he said.

The World Bank grant is due to be spent on the development of a comprehensive program to tackle bribery–nepotism and other corrupt practices that are common among various-level civil servants. An ad hoc government commission charged with coordinating anti-corruption initiatives has already approved its main principles. The commission–formed last year on Markarian’s initiative–held further discussions on the issue on Tuesday. Markarian said improvement of the investment climate in Armenia will be one of the principal aims of the anti-corruption drive. He said passage of laws on civil service–licensing–income declaration and state procuremen’s will significantly limit corrupt officials’ ability to extort kickbacks from business people. The widespread practice is thought to be a major brake on the country’s economic development.

It is still unclear what other concrete actions the government–whose program submitted to the parliament in June 2000 promised a "merciless fight against corruption," intends to take. No senior government official has been prosecuted on corruption charges since Markarian’s appointment as prime minister one year ago.

A 2000 survey of "corruption perceptions" conducted by Transparency International–a respected international watchdog–ranked Armenia among the most corrupt nations of the world–putting it on the 76th place in the list of 90 countries surveyed. Armenia’scored 2.5 points in the "corruption perceptions index," representing the most corrupt and 10 the least corrupt state.

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